To get Americans to consider ‘vacationing’ in Canada, a digital installation was created in New York, surfacing comments/tweets and photography from travellers in real-time.
As a promotional concept, it’s almost very good. But has clear flaws. There are, though, lots of juicy ingredients to the thought and its execution that I feel compelled to discuss. Here’s the video:
The thing I like about it is not its use of ‘social media’. That would be a fairly meaningless statement. What I like is that it is trying to reduce the gap between the audience and the product’s actual value – the product being Canada. A lot of what I talk about in my Free Energy presentation concerns using existing forces (in this case, genuine vacation commentary) and bringing people closer to this authentic energy, rather than create new things (like an ad) that in some ways keeps people distanced from the actual thing itself.
If you buy into my heat transfer metaphor, this concept represents both ‘convection’ and ‘radiation’ value transfer. Convection, because it’s exploiting the currents of real conversation to transmit the value of Canada to others. But radiation, because the installation also needs to act as an ad, broadcasting conversations to people that would otherwise never be seen.
[You could also argue that by reducing the amount of mediation, it's also an attempt to get as close to 'conduction' value transfer as possible, without bringing actual physical chunks of Canada to the streets of New York. Although, not really.]
The execution falls down most – for me – in two places:
1. Too much faith has been put in ‘convection’. Passers by still need to be excited and seduced. The installation still has to act as an ad, ‘radiating’ the value/pleasure of Canada to people across the vacuum that sits between busy commuters and the wall of the installation. But no real effort has been put into aggregating and presenting the data in a really compelling way. It’s just… there. So as an ad, it’s not a good one.
2. Linked to point one, the second flaw is that even if a passer-by takes notice and interacts, will reading what a complete stranger thinks of the salad they’re having in Saskatoon really inspire them to visit? Personally, I don’t have any faith in a stranger’s recommendation of anything. I want to know what ‘people like me’ think of places.
I applaud the effort to bring people closer to the actual value of the thing being sold. But just because we can scrape live data really easily doesn’t mean there isn’t still work to do to make that engaging.
If the creators of this happen across this blog post, please don’t take offence. There are plenty of things I’ve done that I would criticise too. If nothing else, I think it’s a really interesting example that can fuel very useful conversations. Oh – and I’m a dick too ;)"